Characteristics of the saffron plant
The plant belongs to the Crocus genus which has about 80 species. When it is adult it is formed by a bulb-tuber which has a diameter of about 5 cm which contains 20 undifferentiated buds from which the organs originate. Only 3 are the buds from which the flowers and leaves originate; the others, which are smaller, produce only secondary bulbs. In the development from the buds of the bulb the jets start, one per bud: therefore from each bulb 2 or 3 jets can emerge that come out of the earth wrapped in a hard and white cuticle that protects them and that allows the plant to pierce the surface crust of the soil . The jet contains almost fully developed leaves and flowers and, when it comes out of the earth, it opens and allows the leaves to be able to stretch and the flower to bloom completely. The flower is made up of six violet petals. From the ovary, located on the base of the bulb, a long and yellow stylus originates which reaches the flower at the base, where it is divided into three rather long stigmas of a very intense red. The leaves are narrow and elongated: they generally reach 30/35 cm, but in width they do not exceed 5 mm.
Origin and vegetative activity of the saffron plant
Crocus sativus is the result of an artificial selection starting from a species that had its origin in Crete and that was called Crocus cartwrightianus. The selection was made by growers to try to improve the production of its stigmas. The saffron plant is unable to produce fertile seeds, so its reproduction can only take place by cloning the bulb. So the cultivation is strictly linked to the assistance of man. The vegetative stasis of the plant is in summer, from June to September. At the beginning of October 2/3 white spatas originate, covered with a rigid layer of tunics. From these, once out of the earth, bunches of 10 leaves come out. At the end of October the flowers sprout. Vegetative activity slows down in winter and resumes in late March when it generates new bulbs. In May the leaves dry gradually and in June the new bulbs will have accumulated material and will be able to enter the stasis phase. The saffron spice is obtained from the trifid stigma of the plant and the term derives from the Latin safranum, which in turn derives from the Arabic word, which means yellow.